Kia Ora Koutou, it was a pleasure to have been able to present the big, bold and exciting world of esports at the DDO. I speak a lot around the world on this subject, but I found this event amazing. So it was a privilege to have been given the opportunity.

With that said, I must say, NZ marketers have some work to do around understanding what is really not a new or emerging space but one that is already a mainstream entertainment and marketing channel, especially in the 18 - 34 year age bracket. Internationally, all the leading brands in the world are already involved in esports both endemic and non-endemic.

There were a bunch of questions asked by the attendees which I hope I can shed some further insight on in this blog.

One of the main questions on the day was how brands can understand the right questions and strategy to enter into the esport space. As a brand, you are the starting point so all the normal questions when thinking about investment remain the same - not the other way around. Esports is a channel to reach a very hard to reach young male audience but not a silver bullet. Also, are you comfortable with all genres of video games or is there a more natural fit for your brand - a car brand might wish to focus on sim racing genre for example.

Consider - do you want to be associated with shooters? You need to make sure that whoever you work with have experience in delivering commercially for brands and they are not just "gamers" who know about playing games - this happens a lot and is detrimental for brands entering. I would also want to know what mediums the company are using to tell the story - twitch, youtube etc. and then exactly what the local reach is. Most content, tournaments and players are internationally based and therefore the reach and viewership for NZ eyes is still small but growing. As NZ centric brands who want ROI this is problematic that is why LPL use traditional and new mediums (Linear TV and Online streaming ) to meet local audiences.

The other point brands need to consider is the esport audience only wants authenticity and will call any brand out if they feel they you are not giving back to them. However, if you can prove to them that you are sincere as a brand the results will be amazing, as this is one of the most loyal audiences in the world.

There was also some confusion around the definition of "gamers" vs "esport" participants. The IGEA is the leading video game board featuring all the publishers in the region and they offer insights annually on people who consume and play video games - "gamers". This university lead research says the average age of a gamer in NZ is 34 year old and 48% of these gamers are female. A gamer is somebody who "plays" a video game- mobile, tablet, console or PC (basically any type of game at any level), that means almost all Kiwis are "gamers" in some shape or form.

When we talk about "esports" players/participants, these are consumers who have played "a competitive video game against another person". Esports is the competitive version of gaming. Independent research company GEMBA states that we have over 1.02 million "esports participants" in NZ and 488,000 esport consumers in NZ. To use a real-world example you may throw a rugby ball around with friends, family or kids in a casual setting (gamer) but do you sign up to play rugby, touch, league in a module or comp (esport). The esport demographic is 85% male and 18-34 years old.

There were two other areas that attendees wished to explore and understand more about, these were types of games and women in video games. Let's start with types of video games and what ones brands should be looking out for. The starting point is always around the "shooter" genre and whether a brand should be involved. Firstly, there is no research anywhere that conclusively states a connection between violent video games and consumers. Think about it, if millions of players in the world are playing "shooter" games, which they are, should we not have more violence in the world? The reality is most of what you see in the media is driven by the US and from political or religious groups so when tragic events happen the person responsible is usually male and aged between 18-34 (the esport consumer) so this is picked up as a connection. But that is not factual. At any given time 8 of the top 10 video games played or watched are a "shooter" title - this would include fortnite. So for a brand, this is a very large audience base, but you must decide whether this fits your brand for the above reasons. 

There are many other esport genres from sport, sim racing, RTS or MOBA to name a few and each has a passionate fan base that is targeted - think a netball fan vs a rugby fan. As a brand, think about where your brand is currently and what your brand goals and messaging is before picking the game. This is, in my opinion, the single biggest point for brands to consider before entering into esports - you are not entering into "esports", you are entering into a "video game genre" that fits with your brand. You would not just get into sport - you would target a sport that fits your brand.

One of the things I hear a lot is around women in gaming/esport and the objectification of them. What is really forward about esports and gaming and is a general trait of millennial thinking, is that "gaming" banned promo girls from large events years ago to stop objectification. What people often see is girls dressed in a certain way but this is known as "cosplay" which is a huge part of the gaming ecosystem. It is like arts and crafts where hours are spent creating costumes that reflect their favourite video game characters and then attend events to showcase this with peers. This is a hobby for many and is in no way meant to objectify women, it is completely the opposite and it empowers many people to showcase their creative passion and hobby. Equally, there are many leading games who feature strong female lead characters, think Lara Croft and this has been going on for many years and well before mainstream began offering strong feminism traits and narrative.

Gaming should be seen and celebrated as one of the few entertainment and sporting areas in the world where diversity is what makes it large and enjoyable. There are no boundaries for participants. You can be any age, race, gender or ethnicity and the playing field is equal - how cool is that.

In my opinion, the future of marketing will intersect with esports and gaming more often than not. This is based on the share volume of players and consumers for this content and the fact that the world is being built on faster internet, more connectivity and more interactive content. Gaming and esports sit nicely in the middle. Don't be afraid and the sooner you are in the more you will find your place in this brave new world

For more inspiration on how you can use esports, check out the below examples: